March 06, 2023
March 06, 2023

The Basics of Social Media Advertising (2023)

Remember way back when social media didn’t exist? We — well, most of us — don’t either. Even though it didn’t really start to become part of people’s lives until the late ‘90s / early ‘00s, social media seems like it’s been around forever.

Today, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives — and by ‘our,’ we mean pretty much everyone: billions of people around the world using it daily to connect, share, and engage with each other and with myriad businesses like yours that have established presences on whatever social platforms make sense for their growth aspirations and bottom line.

What is Social Media Advertising?

Social media is a digital platform that enables users to create, share, and engage with content in a social, interactive way. Its basic objectives include fostering social connections, building relationships, sharing information and ideas, and promoting products or services. As a major player in the market, Snapchat is a prime example of a social media platform.

As a result of its evolution and global adoption, social media has revolutionized the advertising industry and the way marketing works by providing businesses with previously impossible ways to reach and engage with their audiences. From more precise targeting to personalized messaging to real-time feedback, it’s enabled brands to optimize their advertising strategies and campaigns to maximize results like never before. It’s also shifted the power from traditional media to the consumers, who now have more control over the ads they see and the content they engage with.

Social media marketing and advertising take two primary forms — organic and paid — the combination of which makes it the juggernaut it is for businesses promoting their products and services online.

Paid social media advertising involves paying to display ads on social media platforms to reach a specific target audience. Leveraging specific demographics, interests, and behaviors, the reach and targeting of paid social ads are typically broader and more precise than organic social media, and the results are measurable.

It also provides more control over the frequency and placement of the content. Paid social advertising platforms take into account basic objectives — website clicks, video views, purchases, etc. — and provide dedicated dashboards, such as Snapchat Ads Manager, where a business can manage their campaigns and view their results.

Paid’s counterpart, organic social media marketing, involves creating content and engaging with followers without paying for it to appear in community members’ feeds. Organic social media reach is limited to the number of followers, relies on the quality of the content and the engagement it generates to extend its reach, and can be more challenging to measure effectiveness.

Graphic image of swiping up on a Snap ad

How Much Does Social Media Advertising Cost?

With any social media advertising platform, you can spend as much as your goals require, and start and stop your ads at any time. Outlay is determined by your objective, your willingness to invest in reaching your target audience, and/or the actual campaign results you’re seeking to achieve. Social media advertising costs are further influenced by factors such as bidding competition, ad placement, and the quality of the ad content.

Many platforms offer budget recommendations to help optimize your ads. With Snapchat Ads, for instance, you can begin advertising for as little as $5 a day, although we recommend $20-50 a day to help your ad complete the Exploration Phase, which looks for people in your audience who are most likely to take the action you want. Completing the Exploration Phase (sometimes also called the Learning Phase) helps your ad optimize its delivery and experience a lower cost per action (CPA).

Once you start investing, how do you know your ad spend is working? Several key metrics are used on all social platforms to evaluate the success of social media ads. These metrics applicability can vary depending on the specific objectives of the ad campaign, and include:

  • Impressions: The number of times an ad was shown to a given social platform’s users. (Some people may see it more than once.)

  • Clicks: The number of times users clicked on an ad to visit its advertiser’s website or landing page.

  • Engagement: The number of likes, comments, shares, and other interactions with an ad.

  • Reach: The total number of unique users who saw the ad.

  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of users who completed a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form, after clicking on the ad.

  • Cost per Click (CPC): The average cost for each click on an ad.

  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): The revenue generated from an ad campaign divided by the total cost of the campaign.

  • Cost per Acquisition (CPA): The average cost to acquire a new customer through the ad campaign.

By tracking these metrics, businesses can evaluate the effectiveness of their social media ads and make adjustments to improve future campaigns. (Note that it's important to track metrics that align with the specific goals of your ad campaign to ensure that your ads are generating the desired outcomes.)

Types of Social Media Ads

Many social media ad platforms (including Snapchat) offer objectives that map to what’s traditionally known as the marketing funnel. The funnel’s comprised of three process stages — awareness, consideration, and purchase — to which objectives are matched, which in turn inform decisions about the types of ads a business can and should run. With Snapchat Ads:

  • The Awareness objective is mapped to the Awareness stage — so a business might run ads introducing their brand to their target audience.

  • The Lead Generation and App Installs objectives are mapped to the Consideration stage — so a business would run ads designed to collect consumer information or increase downloads of its app.

  • The Online Sales objective maps to the Purchase stage — so a business would run product ads to increase sales.

Once you’ve determined your objective, you can move to building out your ad creative, controlling what your ad says and how it looks by using a static image, a video, a dynamic product format (which auto-populates the ad with images of products from an online store), or a Story with some concise messaging. For example, if you want sales via your site, use your ads to give people a compelling reason to purchase. Or if you’re intent on driving awareness, give them a short, fun video that compels people to watch it in its entirety and delivers a memorable message.

Several types of social media ads are at an advertiser’s disposal, each with its own unique format and objective. Some of the most common types:

  • Image Ads feature a single image, which can be either static or animated. They’re typically used to promote products or services, and can be effective in generating brand awareness and website traffic.

  • Video Ads are a popular type of ad that can be used to showcase a product or service or tell a brand's story. They’re available in various formats, such as in-stream ads that play before or during a video, or standalone video ads that appear in the user's feed.

  • Carousel Ads feature multiple images or videos that users can scroll through, each with its own unique headline, description, and call-to-action button. Carousel ads are ideal for showcasing multiple products or features.

  • Collection Ads are a combination of images and videos and are designed to encourage users to browse and purchase products. When a user clicks on a collection ad, they’re taken to a landing page where they can explore the products more fully and purchase if so inclined.

  • Sponsored Posts are a type of native advertising that appears in a user's feed like a regular post but are marked as "sponsored." They’re used to generate brand awareness, drive traffic, or promote specific products or services.

  • Influencer Ads involve partnering with social media influencers to promote products or services to their followers. This type of ad, which is a strategy as opposed to an ad format, is effective in reaching a highly engaged targeted audience.

To drive the point home, the type of social media ad that works best for your brand depends on your objectives and the target audience.

Image of two plant shop owners taking a selfie with their plants to promote their small business.

Benefits of Social Media Advertising

As with any PPC (Pay Per Click) strategy, social media advertising offers numerous benefits for businesses looking to increase their online presence and reach their target audience in a cost-effective way.

  • Granular targeting: Social media platforms offer advanced targeting options that allow businesses to reach specific audiences based on their location, interests, behaviors, and demographics — ensuring that ads are shown to the right people, increasing the chances of converting them into customers.

  • Increased brand awareness: Exposing a brand to a wider audience can lead to more followers, likes, and shares, and can ultimately result in more customers and sales.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Because it allows you to set your own budget and target a specific audience, social media advertising can be more cost-effective than traditional advertising methods. You can also track your spending and results in real-time, allowing you to adjust your campaign as needed.

  • Increased website traffic: Social media advertising can drive traffic to your website by promoting specific products or services, or by encouraging users to explore your site.

  • Improved customer engagement: With myriad formats to work with, social media ads can be highly engaging and interactive, enabling businesses to connect with their customers in a more personal way. That connection inevitably leads to increased customer loyalty and higher lifetime customer value.

  • Consumer acceptability: Because social media ads typically blend in with organic posts, they tend to be a less intrusive means to reach your audience.

  • Measurable results: Social media advertising provides businesses with real-time analytics and insights, allowing them to measure the success of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions that can help improve future campaigns and increase overall ROI.

Building a Social Media Ads Strategy

Targeting is the (not-so) secret sauce of social media advertising. Dial in your audience understanding, objective, campaign plan and strategy, and ad creative, and you’re in a strong position to get the results targeting can bring.

The process typically involves these steps, which should serve as the foundation for devising your social media advertising strategy:

  • Defining your target audience: To ensure your ads are shown to people most likely to be interested in your product or service, do the work to figure out the target audience you want to reach based on factors such as demographics, interests, location, behaviors, and the like. Many platforms, like Snapchat Ads, also allow you to create Custom Audiences that draw from your customer lists, pixel-based website activity, and other sources.

  • Create your ad: Build your creative using images, videos, messaging text, and a call-to-action button. Design your ad to be as engaging and attractive as possible to your target audience, with the goal of getting them to click on it or take some other action.

  • Bid and budget: Set a budget for your campaign aligned with how much you’re willing to spend to get your desired outcome. You can also set a bid on the cost per click (CPC) or cost per impression (CPM: the “M” stands for “mille,” which is the Latin word for “one thousand”) you want to pay for the ad space — the highest bidder gets their ads shown to the target audience, but platforms like Snapchat Ads have methods in place to ensure that advertisers with large budgets can’t simply buy up all the available ad space.

  • Launch your campaign: Once your campaign is set up and approved by the host, that platform will deliver your ads to the target audience. Ads can be delivered in various places, including in-stream ads, in-feed ads, and more.

  • Track and optimize: During the campaign, track the performance of your ads, including metrics such as impressions, clicks, and conversions. With that data in mind, you can optimize the campaign and adjust your ad content or targeting to improve results.

Tips for Optimizing Your Social Media Ads

To optimize your social media ads and realize improved performance and better results, implement these best practices:

  • Define clear goals: Before launching your social media ad campaign, establish coherent, measurable goals that align with your business objective(s).

  • Know your audience: To re-reiterate, understanding your target audience and their preferences can help create more relevant and effective ad content.
    Use eye-catching visuals and copy: Use high-quality imagery and compelling copy that grabs the audience's attention and drives engagement. To avoid fatigue, refresh your ad creative on a regular basis.

  • Test and refine: Experiment with different ad formats, targeting options, creative elements, and A/B testing to find the best combination that works for your specific campaign. Be sure to incorporate a platform’s pixel (like the Snapchat Pixel) to help optimize your ads for the actions you want people to take on your site.

  • Optimize for mobile: Optimize ad content for mobile devices, as most social media users access their host platforms through their smartphones.

  • Keep it simple: Keep ad content simple and easy to understand, with a clear and concise call-to-action.

  • Monitor and adjust: Regularly monitor ad performance and make adjustments to targeting, ad content, and bidding strategies to improve results.

  • Set a budget and schedule: Define a budget for the campaign and set a schedule to run the ads at the optimal times for the target audience.

  • Keep up with trends: Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and features on the social media platforms to stay relevant and effective in the ever-changing landscape.

Graphic image of three phone icons with Snapchat yellow colors and Ad visuals, Dynamic Video, Story Ads, and Lens Advertising.

Social Media Advertising on Snapchat

Ready to augment your social media advertising game? Our Snapchat Ads Manager provides access to all you need to run robust campaigns that bring results, including a range of ad formats and targeting options. Here's how it works:

  • Create a Public Profile and a Snapchat Ads Account: Both are required to use the Snapchat Ads platform.

  • Choose an ad objective: Based on where you are in the marketing funnel, decide on an ad objective, such as awareness, lead generation, app installs, or online sales.

  • Choose an ad format: Snapchat offers several ad formats, including Snapchat Ads, Story Ads, Collection Ads, and more. Choose the format that best aligns with your business objectives and target audience.

  • Set targeting and budget: Snapchat offers a range of targeting options, such as age, location, interests, and more, including six kinds of Custom Audiences. Set a budget for the campaign, which can be daily or total and remains fully under your control.

  • Create ad content: Build your ad using as much creativity as possible, along with clear, concise messaging and a strong CTA. For video and images, user-generated content (UGC) gets the best results. Think relevance, authenticity, and engagement potential.

  • Launch and monitor your campaign: Once your ad is ready to go, use the Ads Manager dashboard to launch and monitor your campaign. Your dashboard also lets you track key metrics such as impressions, clicks, and conversions to optimize your campaign across time for better results.

See what social advertising can do for you on Snapchat - get started today!